Lots to do

One of the advantages of living in a place that people go on vacation is that there are lots and lots of things to do. Maybe this is true anywhere you go. There were certainly lots of things to do when Duke and I were in Manchester, Iowa on vacation a month ago. In just a week we did Hooverfest, two ice cream socials, the Sweet Corn festival, First Friday at Five (live music, beer and food) and spent a day at the Amana Colonies.

Anyway, there is also lots to do in the Reno area. Yesterday we went to the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off in down town Sparks. The food was so good that I wished for a bigger stomach.

On Wednesday I met my good friend Linda for lunch in Truckee which is 45 minutes east of here. We hadn’t seen each other in almost three months. It was SO good to see her. In the Truckee chamber of Commerce building I picked up brochures about everything from horse back riding to hiking to wine tasting to the Sunset Idea house to rafting and bicycling. Linda and I had a great time browsing the shops but we did agree that moving and having too much stuff does put a damper on one’s desire to buy things!

Sierra Canyon Hiking Group – Lake Tahoe Hike

One of my retirement goals is to hike. Hiking is something I have always enjoyed hiking and I want to hike often in a wide variety of places. Sierra Canyon, the Del Webb over 55 community that we live in has a very active hiking group that hikes every Monday and Thursday. The hikes are usually 5-7 miles. Monday are easier and shorter than the hikes on Thursdays.

Last Monday Duke and I did our first hike with the group. We hiked along the shore of Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay from D.L. Bliss State Park to Vikingsholm. Here is a picture of the group getting ready to leave the parking lot. The drivers took the cars down to the end of the route and then all came back in one car.


Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The walk along the lake was gorgeous.



The Vikinsholm is a stone home built iTahoehike8272007_032n authentic Norwegian style back in the late 1920’s.

From Vikinsholm we hiked  to Eagle Falls and then about a mile back up to the parking area road. On the way home we stopped for beer and snacks at Sunnyside Restaurant. We sat on the deck overlooking the lake. It was great group of people and a lot of fun. The total hike was about 5.5 miles and quite easy.

Here is the Flickr link of all the pictures from the hike.


It took all my energy and will power several year ago to hike Mount Whitney. Hiking at 14,000 ft is no fun and in fact is incredibly hard. So if you want an inspirational story you should read this post from Tom Mangan’s Bay Area (California) Hiking Blog. I can’t even imagine what it took for Bob Coomber AKA 4WheelBob to take a wheel chair up 14,000 ft plus White Mountain. It is impressive and inspiring. Wow!

A Wonderful Book Find – Sheetrock & Shellac – A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Art and Science of Home Improvement

Every once in a while I discover a book that I just love. Finding a new book that I can add to my list of books I love is always an unexpected treat. I savor reading my new find and I don’t want the book to end. It is such a delicious pleasure.

We just got back from  a trip to the Bay Area then to LA and then back to the Bay Area and then back to Reno. Last Monday we took a truck load of stuff from Union City to LA where one of Duke’s daughter’s is going back to school. We helped her find an apartment and move in. On Thursday we drove back to the Bay Area. We loaded up another truck load of our stuff, got rid of our storage locker and headed back to Reno. We are going to be here in Reno in our new house for a while now. It is exciting to finally be settling in.

But back to my wonderful book. I read the whole book on our trip and I loved it. The book is Sheetrock & Shellac – A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Art and Science of Home Improvement by David Owen. The title does a good job of describing the book but it didn’t prepare me for the laugh out loud humor or for how many interesting things I learned by reading it. I love David Owen’s wonderful ability to make everything from the history of the history of the toilet to all about backhoes fascinating. His skill with the English language reminded me of William F. Buckley’s books about sailing. Buckley wrote three sailing books; Airborne, Atlantic High, and Racing through Paradise. Whether or not you know anything about sailing they are a joy to read. Sheetrock & Shellac is the same. I have done very little home improvement but I don’t think it would matter if I had  never held a hammer. I think I still would have loved this book.

Sheetrock and Shellac is based on the authors experiences renovating his house and building a cabin. It contains a lot of his own story. For example:

"I built myself an office, in the master bedroom of the former apartment on the third floor…… I vividly remember the moment when I started the project. It was late at night and I was watching TV. Suddenly, my desire to build something serious became overpowering….. I put down my drink, loaded my tools into a canvas bag, carried the bag up to the third floor, and began, very quietly, to demolish an old plaster wall, in which deep cracks shaped like cartoon lightening bolts stretched from the ceiling to the floor. Carefully, I wedged the claw end of the hammer into one of the cracks; carefully, I pried off a piece of plaster the size of a chocolate chip cookie; carefully I caught the plaster cookie in my other hand, so that it wouldn’t ht the floor. I was trying very hard not to make too much noise because my kids were asleep one floor below. Yet I was so excited about building my office that before beginning I hadn’t bothered to cover the room’s freshly made bed or to remove some recently dry-cleaned clothes that were hanging in the closet. ( I did take a moment to close the closet door.)"

Sheetrock and Shellac also contains a lot of fascinating information about a lot of diverse things, hence the name. Here is an example from the section on shellac:

"Shellac is made from a natural resin, called lac, which is the only commercially valuable resin that is produced by an animal. (All other natural resins – rosin, amber, mastic, and dammar among them – are produced by plants; most synthetic resins, including the ones in  most plastics, are derived from petroleum."

I guess you can tell that I highly recommend this book. According to the dust jacket Owen is a staff writer for The New Yorker and has written a dozen previous books. I think I’ll go find another one of his books to read next.


Firehouse Pancake breakfast

Before leaving for the bay area today we stopped at the new firehouse pancake breakfast. The house we are renting is in the Del Webb’s Sierra Canyon at Somersett, It is  just down the road from the fire station. It was a lot of fun to watch the kids sitting in the fire truck and trying out the fire hose. I am really enjoying reading the Reno Realty Blog that included the story about the pancake breakfast.

A Presidential reading project and His Excellency – George Washington

As I mentioned a few days ago I have started working on a goal of reading at least one book about each of our presidents. I enjoy biographies because of the personal perspective on history that they provide. If anyone reading this has suggestions of other good presidential books to read I would love to hear your suggestions.

I just finished reading His Excellency – George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It gives what appears to be a very balanced view of Washington’s life. In reading it I came to appreciate what an extraordinary man he was. He certainly earned the title Father of our Country.  Both John Adams by David McCullough and this Ellis book talk about what a pragmatist and realist Washington was and how valuable that trait was both during the war of independence and then later as president.

The book goes into some depth about Washington’s attitudes and actions towards slaves
and American Indians. In both cases his practical and realistic view of the issues seem admirable for the time.

One of the things that has surprised me about this time period is how partisan and vicious the press were. Both McCullough and Ellis discuss this. I thought that commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Maureen Dowd and their slanted, one sided, mean views of the world were a new phenomenon but apparently the press in the late 1700s may even have been worse if that is possible.

Washington’s concern about how he would be viewed by history surprised me. He not only worried about it but he also tried to shape it.

The fact that Washington retired after two terms and allowed the democratic process to work is something we take for granted. Ellis points out that it was an extraordinary act. How many revolutionary leaders from other countries can you think of who have done the same?

I am excited about my presidential reading project. I have always loved books and reading and I am finding that one of the best things about retirement is having the time to read. I love these quotes from the McCullough book about John Adams our second president.

“Adams library numbered 3,200 volumes”

“Unable to sleep as long as Abigail he would be out of bed and reading by candlelight at 5 in the morning and later would read well into the night.”

“Your father’s zeal for books will be one of the last desires which will quit him.” Abigail observed to John Quincy in the spring of 1816 as the 81 year old Adams eagerly embarked on a sixteen volume French history.

My Summer

This has been an incredibly hectic and challenging summer. I have a hard time coming up with the right way to describe the last three months.

My Mother’s dying overshadows everything else. It is like a run away freight train running right through the landscape of my life. All the things we did this summer like moving to Reno, getting our house ready to sell and  visiting Duke’s family in Iowa would have been the major landscape scenery of the summer if that freight train hadn’t come barreling through. I like the illusion that I am in control of my life but this summer has reminded me that control is an illusion.  Now I would like to think that things are getting back to normal. We are leaving tomorrow for the bay area to help Duke’s girls move back to College which starts for both of them next Monday. For Vicky we’ll help find an apartment in LA and help her move into it and for Valerie we’ll move her stuff into the dorms at St Mary’s in Moraga. Once that is done we will bring another load of our stuff from the storage locker in Union City up to the new house in Reno. We’ve lived here for going on 7 weeks and I have so far spent 5 nights here. 

It bothers me some that I haven’t really thought about what it means that Mom is gone. I haven’t dealt with all the emotions of losing her forever and the horrible long dying process. I have been able to avoid falling apart emotionally by staying in denial. I
don’t think this is necessarily good but it is what it is. Any time
someone is symathetic I start to break up but then I just push all that to the background and go on. I suppose that in time I will deal with it. But for now I am just taking one day at a time. I know that it will help to spend time with my friends, my daughters and my Grandson. I’ve missed them.

My Mom – Margaret Helen Gibson Robinson – 1924 – 2007

My Mom died Friday morning July 27. She died at home as she wanted to. We had the services for her on Wednesday, August 2.

Even though she was ready to go it is very hard for those of us she left behind. We will all miss her so much. I can honestly say that I am who I am today because of my Mom. She gave me so much.

Here is the eulogy that I read at her funeral:

Mom was born in Vancouver British Columbia,  Canada. She grew up in Jasper, Alberta in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. She loved the mountains. Her Dad was an train engineer for the Canadian National Railroad. He drove the  steam engines that were  used to pull trains over the mountains. Mom said she always remembered being a little bit scared of the giant noisy engines. She had memories of her Mom taking Gordon and her down to the station to visit her Dad when he was working. She also remembered one time She and her mother rode the train to a remote mountain meadow where he stopped and let them out. They camped, spent the night and picked blueberries. The next day the train stopped and took them home

When Mom was 13 her Dad died suddenly. Mom and her Mother and Brother emigrated to the U.S. to Spokane Washington where my Grandma started a nursing home. Mom graduated from High School in Spokane. She went to Washington State University where  she received a bachelors degree in Nursing Education. One of her first nursing jobs was in Los Angeles where nurses were needed to help with the polio epidemic that was then going on. Mother worked at a few different nursing jobs for about a year and then
decided that nursing wasn’t for her. She enrolled at Iowa State University and received a BS in Home Economics education.

At Iowa State Mom met my Dad on a blind date in about 1947 (60 years ago!). They were married in 1950. Their first home was in Hibbing, Minnesota. Ironically in Hibbing married women were not allow to teach so although Mom  was a qualified teacher she went back to work as a nurse until I was born. Eventually Mom and Dad moved to Bismarck, North Dakota where Barbara, Betsy and Charlie were born.

In 1964 when the opportunity presented itself Mom urged Dad to apply for a position helping to build a new oil refinery in Brisbane, Australia. Dad got the job. Mom and Dad packed up the whole family and we moved. We lived in Australia for 5 years and then moved to England, then Wales and finally Zaire. In Zaire Dad was heading a project to build a new copper mine in a remote area. There were no schools for the American and European children so Mother started the school and was the superintendent as it

Mom was always an excellent shopper. She loved a bargain and always got value for money. During our time in Australia, England and Wales Mom began to collect antiques. Mom and Dad’s home is decorated with beautiful and interesting antiques that she bought on their travels. There are biscuit barrels, a bed warmer, bellows, chamber pots, writing desks, candle sticks, tea caddies and several clocks and that is just the beginning. In England Mom visited the china factories and collected all the china that the whole family uses today.

When Mom and Dad finally moved back to the US Mom again became active in PEO, started Bible study and continued knitting, sewing, doing needlepoint and smocking. Mom continued to love to travel. In the last years she has visited the Holy land, the Galapagos islands, Russia and many other places. Within North America Mom and Dad explored Alaska, Prince Edward Island where Mom’s family came from, the Canadian
Rockies where Mom grew up and the Tetons where we vacationed when we
were young. Dad says that Mom recently told him that she wished she had
even traveled more

When I think about Mom and all she did with her life, what stands out and what I am certain was her proudest accomplishment was our family. Being a mother defined her and she was the best mother ever. She encouraged us, she taught us, she led by
example and most of all she loved us.

To Mom family was everything and her faith was overarching. Her faith was the rock on
which she built her life. She was an amazing woman and I think all four of her children can say we are who we are today because of our Mom and her encouragement of us and faith in us. Although she is gone I know that she will live in our hearts and we will never forget her.